“We have heard from so many teachers, ‘I need to learn how to make learning relevant,’” Superintendent Dr. Mike Looney told a crowd of hundreds at the recent Williamson, Inc., Williamson County Chamber of Commerce member meeting.
The district’s newly formed partnership in education with the chamber is critical to make learning more “relevant” and experiential for students as well as teachers, Looney explained.
Implementing community internships for students and externships for teachers is a tangible way business leaders can support the district’s goals.
“We can teach students the importance of reading and math in the real work day,” Looney said.
Teachers often move directly themselves from classroom learning to classroom teaching, a sequential move that does not always equip them with important knowledge about the business world, Looney explained.
“If they can spend time in the business community, they can understand how it relates to work in the classroom,” he said.
Chamber CEO Matt Largen emphasized that schools are the reason many families live in and relocate to Williamson County.
“It’s about providing students and teachers with the opportunities to engage with the business community,” Largen said. “It’s a tool box initiative.” He explained that the initiative will provide real world ways to incorporate business fundamentals into the world of education to advance students' knowledge about jobs and the workplace.
Looney said he believes adding the rigor of real world experience inside and outside of the classroom can push WCS to even greater success.
“I believe that as good as we are and as much as we have accomplished, the water level isn’t even near the top of the glass. We still have a long way to go. I feel it in my gut, this district is on the precipice of greatness,” Looney said.
Looney showed the audience of business leaders a graph citing that not only did Williamson County achieve the highest test scores in grades 3-8 and the highest ACT scores in the state, only one district of similar size and demographics achieved higher ACT scores in the nation.
However, the high achieving district in Illinois allots $30,000 per students, while about $8,000 is allotted per student in WCS, according to the state BEP, or statistical measure of pupil funding per district.
“I am very proud of Williamson County students,” Looney said.
Although the chamber and the district have planned the implementation of the partnership in education for about six months, the district has already begun weaving the business community into the fabric of the school system with its WCS Ambassador Program.
As part of the program, business leaders have contributed time, finances and ingenuity for the implementation of many projects throughout the district.
A recent partnership between Carpenter Bus and John Maher Builders now provides student transportation to athletic events, initiated by the two firms for Brentwood High School.
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